Episode 71

Should You Self-Publish before Landing an Agent?

The road to publishing is not as narrow as it used to be, and today we’re reviewing evidence of that, and we have publishing news to discuss, of course.

Music licensed from Storyblocks:

“More Jam Please” by Raighes Factory

"Lofi - Aces" by STÉ

"Lonely Dusty Trail" by Jon Presstone

"Journey Of Wonder" by Jon Presstone

"Yes Or No" by Precarious Perch

Rosemi Mederos:

If you have plot bunnies coming out of your plot holes, it’s time for a writing break.

The road to publishing is not as narrow as it used to be, and today we’re reviewing evidence of that, and we have publishing news to discuss, of course.

The Writing Break cafe is open, so let’s welcome the start of summer with some kind of frozen beverage for those in the Northern Hemisphere and something cozy and warm for those in the lower part of the Southern Hemisphere.

I would like to start off by giving you a sense of déjà vu. After the US Department of Justice successfully blocked Penguin Random House from merging with Simon & Schuster, The Wall Street Journal has reported that HarperCollins is now looking to buy Simon & Schuster. Both the Wall Street Journal and HarperCollins are owned by News Corp, so I guess if anyone knows what HarperCollins is up to, it would be the Wall Street Journal.

What makes HarperCollins think their attempt to purchase Simon & Schuster won’t be blocked? Apparently because they’re the second biggest publisher, not the first biggest. HarperCollins is taking steps to reduce its office space, including not renewing its leases in San Francisco and Grand Rapids. CEO Brian Murray said that reducing its office footprint will give the publisher more funds to invest in its business.

On May 11th, The New York State Department of Corrections attempted to pass a directive that would limit the ability of incarcerated writers to publish and enter writing contests. PEN America was quick to respond, condemning the move and standing by their belief that inmates “have the right to express themselves and cultivate literacy, writing craft and creativity."

On June 8th, Publishers Weekly reported that The New York Department of Corrections rescinded the directive. Thank you, once again, PEN America.

You might have noticed that I’m not big on obituaries. You’re here for a break. I don’t want to spend it telling you about someone who died. What are you even supposed to do with that information?

I would rather tell you that actor Michael Caine’s debut thriller Deadly Game is set to release on December 5th than that Cormac McCarthy, author of many bestsellers, including No Country for Old Men, passed away at the age of 89. Both of those things are true, by the way.

But an editor I admired and respected passed away, and I would like to share one tidbit about his life that I feel is special. Robert Gottlieb worked at Simon & Schuster, then Knopf, then the New Yorker, then Knopf again. Like most great editors, Gottlieb’s authors are much more famous than he is. His authors include Ray Bradbury, John Cheever, Michael Crichton, Nora Ephron, Joseph Heller, and Toni Morrison. He is the reason we say Catch-22 and not Catch-18. If you would like to know more about Gottlieb, you can read his memoir called Avid Reader or watch the documentary called Turn Every Page, which is about his working relationship with author Robert Caro.

e editor of The New Yorker in:

Could you imagine that? He had already proven himself a success at Simon & Schuster and at Knopf, and he was still instantly rejected by the staff he was supposed to manage. Well, Gottlieb kept showing up, and I think if anyone can be in that position and continue to work with integrity, so can you, no matter how many literary agents reject you, no matter how many readers criticize your work, keep showing up.

Links to all these stories can be found in the show notes of this episode and on writingbreak.com.

Speaking of showing up, let’s continue embracing summer by heading into a high desert valley to visit a solar-powered bookstore.

Welcome to Antigone Books in Tucson, Arizona. Antigone Books is the first bookstore in the entire country to get 100% of their electricity from solar power.

It’s a warm 103 degrees Fahrenheit, 39 degrees Celsius in Tucson today. Lucky for us, stepping out of the Arizona sun into Antigone Books, with its sand-colored walls and dark carpeting, feels like finding an oasis in the desert.

First opened in:

Now, let’s peruse the organized rows of books and check out an independent author.

The science-fiction novel GLITCH by Erin Zak and Jackie D is the first book of the Static Series.

“In the year:

Isa Adams, a Tekano Elite soldier, is the strongest and fastest in her unit. Her strength and skill are matched only by her stubbornness and the oversized chip on her shoulder. When the fate of Tekano is threatened by a group of rogue assassins fueled by their hatred for everything Tekano represents, Amara and Isa are brought together once again.

Their unforgettable romance was cut short by Isa's need to protect Amara, but when the stakes are raised, they must work together to save their beloved Tekano. With the help of time travel, they set out to find the rogue assassins and stop them from halting the progress of the technology that has enabled the Earth to survive climate change.

As they face danger at every turn, Amara and Isa must confront their feelings for each other and decide if their love is strong enough to withstand the challenges ahead.”

Glitch is available in paperback and ebook formats, and it is free to read with Kindle Unlimited.

Now, let’s use the bookstore’s green and gold wicker sofa as today’s Overthinking Couch, where I will be asking you an important question about your writing.

In a thoughtful article on Publishers Weekly, author Julie Mathison discusses her experience publishing with and without a literary agent.

In Mathison’s case, she sought out a literary agent for years before landing one. Then, a year and a half after being signed with an agent and after receiving many compliments from editors about her writing talent, her manuscripts remained unsold because as good as her writing was, the experts felt her manuscripts were not marketable.

“If I self-published, I would be venturing out into the world with only my own stamp of approval. This was my moment of truth: did I believe in my voice?”

She did, in fact, believe in her voice, and her work won several awards. She is doing well publishing on her own, but she began to wonder, “Would any agent be interested in a previously self-published author? The answer was yes, with the result that now, as I proceed with my production schedule, I still have manuscripts out and conversations in process. It’s the perfect intersection for a before-and-after shot. Once, getting an agent meant my chance to be heard by the world. Now, getting an agent means finding someone who is as passionate about my voice as I am. And if that person isn’t out there? It doesn’t really matter. I’m already on the journey, and now, I’m in the driver’s seat.”

You can move in and out of traditional publishing, you can make your own path, but you can’t do it if you do not believe that your writing is worth the effort. So, I would like to ask you the same question Mathison asked herself: Do you believe in your voice?

Before we go, I would like to invite you to send me a message. One of my authors asked me when I was going to release a Q&A episode. Evidently you would be asking the questions, and I would be answering them. Now I’m not sure what kind of questions this author has up his sleeve that he hasn’t asked me yet, but I have received some questions from listeners that I have answered individually, and I think it might be useful to share these questions and answers with you. If you have a question you’d like me to answer, please email me at podcast@writingbreak.com, and I’ll add it to an upcoming Q&A episode. Thank you, Jeff, for the excellent suggestion.

And thank you for listening. Remember, you deserved this break.

If you would like us to visit your favorite independent bookstore, feature your favorite independent author (even if it’s you), or discuss something you’re overthinking about, please email me at podcast@writingbreak.com.

Thank you for making space in your mind for The Muse today.

Writing Break is hosted by America’s Editor and produced by Allon Media with technical direction by Gus Aviles. Visit us at writingbreak.com or contact us at podcast@writingbreak.com.

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Rosemi Mederos


Rosemi is the founder of America's Editor, a book editing company.